DI Voices | An open letter to women in tech

By Rayna Wuh, Assistant Opinions Editor

For women and other underrepresented groups in tech, there is often a looming feeling of imposter syndrome — a feeling of otherness or fraud regardless of ability.

We are repeatedly told either implicitly or explicitly that we don’t belong. A combination of stereotypes and existing social structures create additional barriers to involvement in technology-related fields. What’s worse, these experiences often start early.

A study done by the University of Washington traced the lower sense of belonging girls face to lower feelings of fit with computer science stereotypes. Before college, I had never even considered entering the tech field.

Despite being in the gifted math program from elementary school through high school and achieving straight A’s, I somehow convinced myself I was bad at math. 

Despite working hard in my STEM-related classes, I always attributed any successes to luck. 

Despite my extensive knowledge of the topics covered in class, I qualified my well-formed ideas with “But I could be totally wrong” or “I’m not sure what I’m talking about though.”

Despite my passion for STEM, I repeatedly told myself and others “No, I’m not really a STEM person.”

Time and time again, I undermined my interests and abilities. I received external support from my parents and others to pursue whatever made me happy, but it took a long time to realize that something could be remotely related to technology. 

It was not until my first semester of college that the thought even crossed my mind. With hard work and patience, I earned my place in the Computer Science + Philosophy program at the University, transferring from political science in my fourth semester.

It has been an ongoing process to realize that I not only belong in tech, but I also have the potential to excel and make a difference in the field.

A report by the National Science Foundation found that women only accounted for 26% of computer and mathematical scientists in 2019. With women making up nearly half of the labor force, such a number is dismal. 

The numbers found in higher education are even worse. According to the National Center of Women and Information Technology, in 2019, while 57% of bachelor’s degree recipients were women, only 21% of computer and information science bachelor’s recipients were women.

My own major, as of Spring 2022 was 71% male. In such a male-dominated area, it can be difficult to remember to be loud and assert myself in the face of doubt. Yet, every day I show up to my classes and campus involvements. I take up space.

As I feel more secure in tech, I strive to push other young women to do and feel the same. 

Your presence should not be questioned or viewed as an exception to the rule. Tech culture itself needs to shift to promote inclusivity. 

But for now, I encourage you to persist. I am proud of you and myself for persevering against the odds, for facing extra challenges head on.

You deserve to take up space. Regardless of the doubts others or imposter syndrome may cast on you, if you think you might have an interest in tech, you are in your rightful place. 

 

Rayna is a junior in LAS.

[email protected]